Fifteen Ways To Practice Sustainable Living In Your Home

Because I believe that everything begins in the home, our respect for the environment begins in the home as well.  We have the power in our own hands and bodies to help even in small, simple ways to protect the Earth.

Recently I was on a mini-vacation trip in Florida.  My David had some work to do there and on the last leg of our trip we stayed in an awesome resort in Orlando called The Gaylord Palms Resort.  We stayed there at the same time last August for the same convention.  While I was there last year I walked the grounds one morning for exercise.  I spotted a few signs sporadically placed on the grounds that made it clear that the water used for the sprinkler system was recycled water and of course, not fit for drinking.  I was thrilled to see that the resort was using recycled water for the massive grounds, took a picture of one of the signs and posted it on my Facebook page (I put it on the LIPH Fanpage, too) giving the resort a great big shout-out with the phrase, “Understanding how to care for the environment” with the image.  Oddly enough exactly one year later literally almost to the day, a Facebook friend from high school made a comment on the picture.  Clearly this guy was looking through all the images on my page for the first time, or so I figured.  Anyway, it was interesting to me that he commented on the picture one year after I took it and just when I was there at the resort again.  Now I have to admit that I thought it was a weird comment.  In fact, much to my chagrin it sat a tad funny in my stomach while I tried to digest the meaning of his words.  I finally responded back to him asking him what he meant with the words he chose – and that my friends started a few more comments.  Here’s a replay of our exchange of comments as well as a copy of the picture he was commenting on:

Sign at Gaylord Palms Resort, August 23, 2011

Sign at Gaylord Palms Resort, August 23, 2011

The caption for the picture:

“Understanding how to care for the environment.”

My high school friend:

“Having a small family is the single most important anything, anyone can do to help the environment”.

My response:

“Are you referring to the Balzer clan?!?”

A childhood friend, Lisa Atkinson-Cox chimes in (coming to my rescue maybe?):

“LOL! I love 8 Balzers including the one in heaven.”

My high school friend:

“I’m referring to the Homo sapiens clan.”

Later my high school friend added:

“ ‘Understanding how to care for the environment’ means we must understand our ecological impact on this planet.  Adding 1 million humans a year is not consistent with caring for the environment.  Since HS, the human population has ballooned from 3.4 billion to over 7 billion.  This exponential growth is not sustainable.  Doing things like using reclaimed water and recycling at the curb, while nice and I do it too, it is a mere drop in the bucket when each second another human is added to the earth.”

While I enjoyed his pun about the drop in the bucket, I decided not to respond to his last comment.  I’m not a mathematician that’s for sure but I certainly get that my very own family has grown exponentially.  Like the Eveready Bunny that keeps going and going, we Balzers keep growing and growing, so I was a bit offended to be honest!  Besides which, the intent of the picture I posted was to simply applaud a resort for its efforts to conserve water.

All this Facebook exchange came after I had been working on a new blog post on Sustainable Living – and my suggestions on simple ways each of us can “go green” in our own homes.  So, after this happened I knew for sure I had to finish the post- not because I was miffed that my picture turned into a discussion on family size, but because I’m all about the home and everything that happens in it.  (Well, I guess many babies begin in the home but I’m not going there!)

Here’s a list of fifteen very simple and easy ways to do your part in protecting our natural resources:

  1. Turn off your electronics nightly.
  2. Shower more; bathe less as it takes more water to fill a bathtub than it does to shower.
  3. Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you can save hundreds of gallons a month.
  4. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save approximately four gallons of water each time.
  5. Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  6. Turn off the water while you shave (you, too David) and save several hundred gallons a month.
  7. Make and use a yard compost to reduce usage of your garbage disposal thereby reducing water usage as well as electricity.
  8. Change your light bulbs to CFL’s as they consume 75% less electricity than the standard bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
  9. Clean the lint filter on your dryer before every load.
  10. Choose cloth napkins and dish towels over paper napkins and paper towels.
  11. Donate old clothing and household items rather than throwing them away.
  12. Change the filters on your forced air heating and air conditioning regularly.
  13. Support local farmers.
  14. Use reusable bottles for water instead of plastic water bottles.
  15. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle everything possible.

Remember the words that Neil Armstrong spoke after he stepped on the moon about one small step for man being a giant leap for mankind?  I believe that each of us can in our own small step(s) collectively impact our Earth.  Sure, some of us can and will go to more extreme forms of caring for our environment like limiting family size.  But personally, I think we can get more people on the bandwagon of conservation and sustainable living by making it easy.  What do you think?

To caring for our Earth…

UPDATE:

This article was written and sent for publishing before the passing of Neil Armstrong on Saturday, August 25th.  I considered removing the reference to him and decided instead to look at it as a way to honor the man even in this sad time.  I remember vividly my family and I glued to the TV watching him take his first step on the Moon.  What a gift this man was to all humanity!

A Breath Of Fresh Air

Funny how we use the phrase, “a breath of fresh air”.  This signals that we certainly understand that there are benefits to fresh air.  For example, you might describe someone new that you meet as “a breath of fresh air”.   Yet, very few of us actually take a breath of fresh air.  Why not use this phrase literally and reap from it what you can?

Fresh air has restorative powers waiting for us all.  We can take in this tonic outside OR we can bring it indoors.  Either way, it’s magical.

Breathing fresh air indoors

In any space, the oxygen content goes down continually as you breathe out carbon dioxide and other wastes.  For many of us the spaces we live and work in go from heat to air conditioning followed by heat and then air conditioning once again.  Staying in an environment that is closed-in like this for a long period of time means you are breathing in the same air over and over again.  One big vicious cycle if you ask me.  Fresh air rectifies the situation and breaks this nasty cycle by allowing for a steady supply of oxygen for both your brain and your entire body.

Have you ever noticed the stale morning smell that lingers in a bedroom that has had the door closed throughout the night?  There’s a reason for this.  While you sleep you breathe moisture, breath odors and tons of microorganisms into the air, your pillow and your bedding.  Added to that you perspire, exude skin oils and body smells.  Multiply the amount of all these smells in a room by how many people sleep there.  No wonder it’s stinky.  For goodness sakes, open the windows and let some air into the room!  Better yet, follow the lead of what many Europeans have been doing since the beginning of time and air out your bedding.  Years ago while living in the Washington, DC area my dear friend, Peggy Love’s family bedding hung out each bedroom window airing out for the coming night’s sleep.  I loved seeing this and it made perfect sense to me.  Peggy knew the restorative powers of fresh air for the family bedding.  (She also had one gorgeous silver tea service but that’s a story for another day!)

Physiologically, fresh air makes a healthier environment for us.  There are psychological benefits as well.  Psychologically, the feeling of being closed-in can be constraining.  I was talking about this just recently with one of my many niece’s, Sarah Shrader.  I was visiting her new home in Richmond, VA and she was talking about how different it was compared to her home in San Diego.  In her home in San Diego the windows were always open.  Now in Richmond, she tended to keep them closed and it made her feel confined.  I understood exactly what she meant by that.  My body actually craves fresh air and regardless of the weather or the temperature somewhere in my house there is at least one window cracked.  Even in the middle of a Chicago winter!  And if weather permits, I have every window possible open.  I do right now.

Breathing fresh air outdoors

Hiking in nature

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Many of us spend very little time outdoors.  If we exercise, we do it on the treadmills or machines in our homes or we go to the gym.  Just the other day a friend told me she asked her son to go for a walk after dinner. He was actually baffled and asked her why she didn’t just get on her treadmill.  She told him that the fresh air would do them both good and they could also spend some time together.  He grudgingly went thinking all the while she was weird.  Unbelievable.

In past posts on this blog I have expressed the restorative powers that nature has for us.  (An example is my post, Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home).)  I learned this first hand myself.  I have always been a lover of the outdoors but it wasn’t until the past few years when I became inundated with way too much trauma-drama that I understood the healing powers of nature.  Let me explain…

I moved to the Chicago area a little over two years ago.  I came here kicking and screaming.  I left my business, my friends, my organic garden, my beautiful yard and my family back in Charlotte.  Seriously, I thought God had decided a traumatic divorce, a stalker, a chronically ill child, serious health issues of my own and an earth-shattering chance encounter on a plane weren’t enough to send me over the edge.  God had to throw me one more curve ball.  A Mack Daddy one to boot.  I had to move away from my kids, their spouses and grandchildren.  How could I hover over them so far away?  Weren’t they supposed to move away from me and not the other way around?

In the woods

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Home was with my David so I moved.  Once in Chicago I was faced with endless time on my hands.  I took to walking in nature.  With forest preserves all around me, it gave me something to do besides gourmet cooking and Law And Order reruns.

I started feeling better.  I noticed I was less angry and grumpy.  (So did my David for that matter.)  I slept better.   I smiled more.  The bliss began…

I owe it all to nature and fresh air.  No two ways about it.

The benefits of fresh air

Regardless of whether your are outdoors or inside, fresh air is vital to your essence.  Ponder these benefits you reap:

  • Fresh air helps the airways to your lungs dilate more fully.
  • Fresh air improves the cleansing action of your lungs.
  • Fresh air rids your body of accumulated impurities.
  • Fresh air improves your heart rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate.
  • Fresh air strengthens your immune system.
  • Fresh air soothes your nerves.
  • Fresh air improves your sleep.
  • Fresh air improves the serotonin levels in your brain.
  • Fresh air clears your mind.
Fresh air

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Recently I found myself unexpectedly back in Virginia.  My stay there was action packed to say the least and so any time I could, I spent it outdoors.  I played on the swings with grand nieces and nephews, Gavin, Ellie, Whitt and Logan.  I took a walk with niece Marli and the crew of babies and kids.  Even my niece, Christy wanted to make sure two month old Carina spent time outside.  She told me that her pediatrician actually prescribed outdoor air daily for precious Carina.  (You go, Doc!)  So, one evening her husband, Ryan and I stood outside with tiny Carina asleep in her stroller and five month old Maya nestled asleep in my arms.  Both babies were getting nature’s tonic of fresh air while Ryan and I talked.  What could be better?

Find ways to get a breath of fresh air.  Both you and your homespace deserve it.  Like the words in an old 60’s song by Three Dog Night, titled “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, open up the windows and let some air into the room.  Otherwise you’ll choke on the smell of stale perfume!

You’ll be glad you did.

To a breath of fresh air…